Tuesday, April 24, 2012


It is a holiday tomorrow in Australia. It is ANZAC Day .

What and why the significance? The Australian War Memorial have an excellent website.Their short explanation is

ANZAC Day – 25 April – is probably Australia's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

Whilst war is never glorified and WW1 more so for the lost generation of young men in several countries , it seems to have galvanised all that we want to idealised and hope to be. A young , egalitarian optimistic country that signifies the character of the young Anzac's of mateship and loyalty and bravery even in the face of bad leadership and planning.Gallipoli for all the myth was a military disaster.

Can that spirit continue to exude in a country with a history that is now more distant and a population of a culturally diverse society. Yes if we reflect and learn from that history and take in the lesson.They are universal not particular to Australia despite the cultural myth that has grown out of WW1 . It was a bad war ( no war is good) but it did forge an identity for Australia and New Zealand. It made its hero's and it made its identity.Like the Alamo , the civil war , and so on. For a young country , not quite a 100 years since WW1 , it was the binding of the spirit that is ANZAC. Equally , the spirit of a rough , can do attitude that made the early settlers of a vast hostile land and the visuals of the frontier from the Man from snowy River all are part of that Australian identity. The lifesaver , a volunteer , tough and fearless .Another picture.

Equally the sporting hero and culture. This evening driving home from run training , I enjoyed a great interview by Richard Fidler .He interviewed the Biographer of Tom Wills, a largely unknown Australian ( at least I did not know him) who was possibly Australia's first sporting hero and one of the  architects of an Aussie sport, Australian Rules Football.

It is the story of a great sportsman and unfortunately with a sad twist of fate.

A short description of the book by Greg De Moore:

This is the story of Tom Wills - flawed genius, sporting libertine, fearless leader and agitator, and the man most often credited with creating the game we now know as Australian Rules football.

Sent to the strict British Rugby School in 1850 at fourteen, Tom returned as a worldly young man whose cricket prowess quickly captured the hearts of Melburnians. But away from the adoring crowds, in the desolation of the Queensland outback, he experienced first-hand the devastating effects of racial tension when his father was murdered in the biggest massacre of Europeans by Aboriginal people. Yet five years later, Tom coached the first Aboriginal cricket team.

Tom Wills lived hard and fast, challenging authority on and off the field. But when his physical talents began to fade, the psychological demons that alcohol and adrenaline had kept at bay surged to the fore, driving him to commit the most brutal of suicides. He was forty-four and destitute.

Greg de Moore has carefully pieced together Tom's life, giving us an extraordinary portrait of the life and times of one of our first sporting heroes, a man who lived by his own rules and whose contribution to Australian history has endured for more than 150 years.Allen & Unwin

Listen to the fascinating conversation about Tom Willis , our first great sporting Hero.
Conversation with Greg De Moore .ABC

He epitomise the type of Australia that was slowly being shaped even in the 1850s. .He was a larikin , yet well educated, egalitarian despite coming from a well off family and he was talented yet not arrogant.

Every ANZAC day I think of my introduction to WW1 and the poems and writings of Siegfried Sassoon . There are many good poems and here is just another about WAR . I think of these poems and the darkness and futility and the loss of many young people. I don't attend dawn services , I have no family connection to WW1 but tomorrow I will remember in silence the sacrifice be it wasted sacrifice of a generation and the freedoms we enjoy .


The road is thronged with women; soldiers pass

And halt, but never see them; yet they're here—

A patient crowd along the sodden grass,

Silent, worn out with waiting, sick with fear.

The road goes crawling up a long hillside,

All ruts and stones and sludge, and the emptied dregs

Of battle thrown in heaps. Here where they died

Are stretched big-bellied horses with stiff legs;

And dead men, bloody-fingered from the fight,

Stare up at caverned darkness winking white.

You in the bomb-scorched kilt, poor sprawling Jock,

You tottered here and fell, and stumbled on,

Half dazed for want of sleep. No dream could mock

Your reeling brain with comforts lost and gone.

You did not feel her arms about your knees,

Her blind caress, her lips upon your head:

Too tired for thoughts of home and love and ease,

The road would serve you well enough for bed.

                                                                                       Siegfried Sassoon